Indigenous leaders denounce Amazon fires as “a terrifying plague"

August 27, 2019

Many indigenous territories in Brazil have been burned by ranchers and loggers for years, though 2019`s fires are especially bad. Awá man Hemokoma`á stands in his people`s forest after it was burned in 2010. © Fiona Watson/Survival

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Indigenous leaders across Brazil’s Amazon region have denounced the devastating fires as a “plague” and a ‘terror” that “makes our children sick and kills the animals.”

Antonio Enésio Tenharim of the Tenharim people said: “We take care of this land, our territory. Until today, the fire hadn’t entered. But now it has suddenly come, in various places. It is a terror for our people, because it makes our children sick, kills the animals, it only brings bad things."

Renowned Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara said today: “We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories… We’ve been warning for decades about the violations we have suffered across Brazil.

“The predatory behaviour of loggers, miners and ranchers, who have a powerful lobby in the National Congress with more than 200 deputies under their influence … has been getting much worse under the anti-Indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment and against us."

Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara has said that President Jair Bolsonaro normalizes and incites violence against Indigenous people and the environment © Survival International

A group of Huni Kuin leaders said: “Nature is crying and we are crying. If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today. This is Mother Nature’s cry, asking us to help her. And we are working today so that humanity has a future. But if we don’t stop this destruction, we will be the ones that will be extinguished, burned and the sky will descend upon us, which has already begun to happen."

Indigenous leader Raimundo Mura speaking to Reuters last week said: “I will resist until my last drop of blood… It’s a plague. You see the lives (of the trees) wasted there. All these trees were once alive, they all needed to live, each one in its place. You can see the damage. It’s the white man’s goal to destroy this [forest]."

The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) has also released a statement on the fires.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today: “These appalling fires are not accidental. The attack on Amazonia is facilitated because of Bolsonaro’s assault on Indigenous people and the environment, to a degree we’ve not seen for 50 years. The Amazon is being destroyed and its Indigenous peoples are being destroyed at the fastest rate in generations. The best way to address the climate crisis is to fight for the land rights of Indigenous peoples.”

Brazilian Indigenous People